What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women?
|October 17, 2019||Posted by Marcia Mantell under Social Security|
You’ll have to read my new book to find out!
Drum roll, please. I am beyond excited to share some big news with you: my second book was just published! I am thrilled to announce What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women? is finally available for everyone who wants to know more about this incredibly important source of income for their retirement.
You know by now that I am nothing if not passionate about helping hard-working, wonderful people think about their retirement. The transition to retirement can be a challenge on many different fronts: What will it be like when I don’t have to get up and drive or take the subway to work? Will I be able to fill up my days with things that are important and fun and meaningful? How the heck am I going to pay for all the stuff I want when I’m not getting a paycheck?
And, what’s the deal with Social Security?
Regardless where I’ve roamed across the country, when anyone finds out that I “do retirement”, the conversation inevitably turns to Social Security. They all want to know if I really believe it’s going to be there in the future. From two blogs that I wrote last year, you know I am all but 100% certain that Social Security will indeed be there for you. And, for me.
Because that topic is so popular, I decided to write more about it. I wanted a way to answer real people’s real questions about Social Security. So, I started writing down some of the questions people asked. The vast majority of questions were from women who didn’t understand their benefit. Or from men who were asking about provisions and protections for their wives. That’s how I got to What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women? I hope you will read it and let me know what you think.
Is Social Security different for women?
Yes. In fact, it’s quite surprising how different Social Security can be for women. Maybe not for every woman on the planet, but for the vast majority of us. Some of the differences stem from the view of the country back in the 1930s when the program was launched. Others are a result of progress and change for women in the workplace. More women than ever work for wages outside the home. Sadly, there is still a stubborn wage gap that carries forward into the Social Security calculations and automatically reduces a woman’s calculated benefit. Less in means less out. And, moms who work outside the home have dramatically changed their family’s financial situation, but the Social Security math model hasn’t addressed her in and out career track. Here’s more on each of these situations:
The Backstory: Put your 1930s hat on
It’s important to keep in mind that the Social Security law was designed in 1930s America. The framework was based on common assumptions for higher income folks of the times. The underlying construct considered that most women got married (to a man), stayed home to raise their children, and did not work outside the home. But, it was recognized that their contributions to the family and to society had value. And, allowed the men to continue their gainful employment. There was even a number placed on her value: half of his.
Today, that is both a delightful surprise and an outrage. Of course, a woman’s contribution should have been valued at TWICE her husband’s, but there ya go. Congressmen were crafting this legislation. From the very beginning, you can clearly see that Social Security was designed differently for women.
Progress for Women
Another key element is realizing just how far women’s careers have indeed progressed over time. Since the 1960s when it was still legal to fire women for being pregnant, to today when we have four women running for President of the United States of America, a lot has changed in the workplace and our country. More women go to and graduate from college. More women hold higher degrees. There has been tremendous progress for women being recognized and promoted for doing a heck of a good job.
Yet, across all job types, there is still that nasty wage gap. On average, all women still earn 82 cents to a man’s dollar. Women of color earn considerably less. (Read more about Pay Equity & Discrimination.) While this is egregious on its own, the real impact of lower wages for same jobs have retirement repercussions. In 2019, her Social Security check is $1,200 per month vs. his that is $1,500 per month. While neither amount allows for country-club living, would you rather have more money or less money? And, why are women still coming up on the short end of that question? So, yes, Social Security is different for women.
The Working Mom
That’s a phrase I never cared for. Let’s be crystal clear here: ALL moms are working moms. It’s just that some moms work at home for no wages, while others also work outside the home for a paycheck. (Stay at home moms “salary” quantified.) But there are more nuances than that. The journey for a mom who works for an employer is often a windy, curvy path. From the point of giving birth, she is tagged “mommy” at home and “oh, no, she’s a working mom” at the office or plant or institution where she gets a paycheck. She gets hugs and kisses at home and passed over for promotions and new opportunities at work. It comes as a packaged deal for the vast majority of working moms.
And, the implications to her Social Security check start early. The years she delivers a baby, her income drops. Instead of wage income, she gets disability insurance. That doesn’t count toward Social Security. In the years she goes part-time or takes a few years off to spend more time with her babies, her income is drastically reduced. If she takes too many years off, she never regains her upward potential. The gap is too wide and the world has moved past her skills. And, if that isn’t enough to take in, by the time she’s older and more established, she may have to divert her career and reduce her wage income in order to care for aging parents or a sick husband.
The net effect here is that the inputs to her calculated benefit are lower than they would be if she didn’t have to take out time for care-giving and having her career path diverted due to motherhood. Her Social Security benefit is lower. A definite difference.
What you’ll find in my new book
You’ll find many more situations highlighted in What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women? This is not a book like the typical Social Security books out there that do a great job walking you through all of the calculations. Instead, I wanted to focus on the real side of Social Security – the women it was set up to protect.
There are lots of interviews and stories that women have shared with me over time. Lots of very interesting situations. You’ll meet some fascinating women whose life’s journey was, and is, filled with so many circumstances, and now, so little Social Security.
I also wanted to make sure that each person I reach ends up with a better understanding that:
1) claiming Social Security is an incredibly important financial decision;
2) the decision you make in your early 60s will dog you into your 90s and beyond; and,
3) you are in control of your decisions.
While the math is interesting and important, it’s not the focus of this book. It’s about the decisions women must make as they move into their retirement years. And the consequences of those decisions.
A favor and a thank you
To all my friends and family who are jumping on Amazon or Barnes & Noble right now to buy your very own copy of What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women? I have a favor to ask: if you like the book, would you write a review and post it on Amazon? That will help me improve my ranking within the category and maybe even find a few more women who will benefit from the book.
As a thank you, I will be happy to spend time with you in a personal, one-on-one conversation to talk about your Social Security situation and decisions you have to make. I thought about sending you a box of chocolates, but I think you’ll find the conversation much more meaningful in the long run!
So, thank you for your interest and support all these years. Here’s to you and making the best Social Security decision possible!
For More Information
There’s lots more information in the Social Security tab of BoomerRetirementBriefs.com. And, much more to come. You’ll find these helpful resources out there today: